Teaching Irish sign language in contact zones: An autoethnography

O’Connell, N. P. (2017) Teaching Irish sign language in contact zones: An autoethnography. Qualitative Report, 22 (3). pp. 849-867.


The central purpose of this autoethnographic study is to provide an account of my experiences as a deaf teacher teaching Irish Sign Language (ISL) to hearing students in a higher education institution. My cultural and linguistic background and personal history guided the way I interacted with students who found themselves confronted by a unique culture quite separate from what they had known before. By engaging in autoethnographic journal writing recorded over a period of three months, I reveal the complex social and historical relations manifested in the contact between deaf and hearing cultures in the classroom. More specifically, I consider how language conflict and different communication modes might affect teaching and learning in concrete situations. In particular, I advocate an understanding of Pratt’s (1991) “contact zone” theory to see deaf-hearing contacts not just as challenges but possibilities for new ways of understanding the experience of sign language teaching and learning. © 2017: Noel Patrick O’Connell and Nova Southeastern University.

View Item